30 October 2015 by Alan Selby
With 6.5million sales after it hit No 1 in 1975, it still tops lists of the best songs ever… and good job too, as it was recorded in SIX studios
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (Official Video)
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? No, it really is 40 years since Queen released their epic hit Bohemian Rhapsody.Four decades and 6.5million sales after it hit No 1 in 1975, it still tops lists of the best songs ever. Here are 40 fascinating facts about the operatic anthem…
- EMI and the band’s manager, John Reid, originally said five minutes and 55 seconds was far too long for the song to get any radio airtime.
- But Capital Radio DJ Kenny Everett took a tape from the A Night at the Opera album launch.
- He played it 14 times that weekend and by Monday fans were desperate to buy it.
- The video for the song, recognised as the first proper music video, took a quickfire three hours to shoot and cost just £3,500.
- It was one of five songs Freddie wrote for the 12-track album.
- The 2002 Guinness Book of Records named Bohemian Rhapsody as the top British single of all time. Some reports suggest it cost up to £35,000 to produce – more than any single before it.
- It was recorded at six studios: Rockfield, near Monmouth; Penrhos Court, in Herefordshire; and Roundhouse, Scorpion, SARM and Wessex in London.
- The 120 overdubbed tracks in Bohemian Rhapsody took more than 70 hours to complete. The tape had almost disintegrated by the time they were perfected.
- Recording the vocal parts took 12 hours a day for three weeks.
- It spent nine weeks at No1 after its full release in 1975, setting a new record.
- It was knocked off the top spot by Abba’s Mamma Mia – a song which echoed the famous line “mamma mia let me go” from Bohemian Rhapsody’s chorus.
- The single spent another five weeks at No1 shortly after Freddie Mercury died from an Aids-related illness in 1991
- Freddie played the same piano for Bohemian Rhapsody that Paul McCartney had used for the Beatles’ Hey Jude.
- In 1978, 200 copies of the single were pressed on to blue vinyl, becoming some of the most collectible records in history – worth about £200,000 today.
- Guitarist Dr Brian May is still a huge fan of the song. He said this week: “If it comes on the radio, I’ll turn it up and listen. But no air guitar. I’m too old for that now.”
- The entire song was written in Freddie Mercury ’s head. He scribbled notes on scraps of paper and the band filled in the gaps.
- On tour, the band would leave the stage during the operatic section which was played as a video show, returning after a costume change for the “rock” section.
- The music video was produced for BBC TV show Top of the Pops. Drummer Roger Taylor said: “We did everything we could to avoid appearing on Top Of The Pops.”
- The first time the band played it on TV was Christmas Eve 1975, when The Old Grey Whistle Test was broadcast from the Hammersmith Apollo in London.
- Wayne’s World star Mike Myers called May while shooting the 1992 film, saying: “We’ve done this amazing sequence. Can we have your approval? And can you get Freddie to hear it?”
- At the time Freddie Mercury was confined to his bed, severely ill with Aids.
- May now credits the movie, also starring Dana Carvey, as the reason Queen re-took America, after fans lost interest following theirinitial rise to fame.
- Freddie Mercury had earlier said: “I suppose I’ll have to die before we get America back.”
- Wayne’s World producers wanted to cut the song until Myers insisted it was used for the famous headbanging scene.
- Fans have long looked for hidden meaning in the lyrics. Some think “Galileo” is a reference to Brian May, who holds a PhD in astrophysics.
- Freddie would only reveal that the song was about “relationships”. Composer Tim Rice later claimed: “It’s fairly obvious to me this was Freddie’s coming-out song.
- ” Now May thinks the words are too difficult to interpret, branding it “beyond analysis”.
- Musicians who have covered the song include Pink, Kanye West, Robbie Williams, Elaine Page, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, opera singer Montserrat Caballe, and Elton John and Axl Rose.
- But the Muppets’ version is the most popular. Miss Piggy, Gonzo and co have been watched online 47 million times.
- Freddie thought he was a terrible piano player and later stopped playing it on stage.
- Despite the critical acclaim the song received, Melody Maker magazine initially branded it “demented”, and likened its sound to that of an “amateur operatic society”.
- The last time the band played it live with Freddie Mercury was on August 9, 1986, in his last show. He died five years later.
- And while they were credited with inventing the music video, Queen only ever won one coveted MTV Video Music Award – for Bohemian Rhapsody.
- The famous rock guitar riff was actually written by Freddie – on a piano.
- The “scaramouche” in the lyrics is a stock character in 16th-century Italian drama – a buffoon who wriggles out of sticky situations at the expense of others.
- The song was so complicated that producer Roy Thomas Baker admitted “nobody really knew how it was going to sound” until it was complete.
- Despite the difficulties with EMI, Baker knew it would be a hit. He suggested a new chart number – half – should be invented for it, given its popularity.
- May said it was “our Sgt Pepper”, after the Beatles’ masterpiece.
- Queen fans – as well as Brian May – affectionately refer to the record as “Bo Rap”.
- The song only ever got to No2 in the US charts, losing out to Kriss Kross’s Jump on its re-release in 1992.
Bohemian Rhapsody Wayne’s World HD
Bohemian Rhapsody | Muppet Music Video | The Muppets